Following an alleged incident in which he was called anti-gay slurs by a player, longtime NBA referee Bill Kennedy came out as gay in a Yahoo article Monday. "I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man," Kennedy told Yahoo. "I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are."
The announcement from Kennedy, 49, comes after the NBA suspended Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo for one game over the weekend after officials said he unleashed a torrent of slurs in a Dec. 3 game in Mexico City. Kennedy ejected Rondo from the game following consecutive technical fouls. A report from the officials in the game said Rondo didn't immediately leave the court and followed Kennedy. Fellow referee Ben Taylor said in the report that Rondo's ranting included him saying, "You're a mother------- f-----. … You're a f------ f-----, Billy," according to Yahoo.
The NBA said in a statement that Rondo was suspended "for directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner upon his ejection." NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Yahoo the league supported Kennedy after he came out as gay.
"I wholeheartedly support Bill's decision to live his life proudly and openly," Silver said in a statement to the outlet. "Throughout his 18-year career with the league, Bill has excelled as a referee because of his passion, dedication and courage. Those qualities will continue to serve him well both as a game official and as a positive influence for others. While our league has made great progress, our work continues to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity."
Two NBA players have been disciplined in the past for using anti-gay slurs. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 in 2011 for shouting an anti-gay slur at a fan and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 the same season for yelling a slur toward a referee.